How Pittsburgh tech companies are celebrating Earth Day

Clean tech and sustainability are on the rise locally, and some companies are using the holiday to launch new products and initiatives.


(Photo by Flickr user Kevin Gill, used via a Creative Commons license)

Pittsburgh tech is celebrating Earth Day with new initiatives, product launches and events.

Clean tech is one of the fast-growing fields in the local tech economy, leveraging expertise in robotics and artificial intelligence to create products and programs aimed at promoting sustainable innovation. It’s become so much of a growing trend that former mayor Bill Peduto pointed to clean tech as one of the next frontiers for success in Pittsburgh tech. It’s a narrative that fits well with the city’s history as a majorly polluted steel mill town: The clean tech advances mark not only an attempt at a reversal of that past, but a push toward leadership in an eco-friendly future.

While not all problems can be solved on Earth Day — Friday, April 22 — it’s a good chance to catch up on just what some local companies are up to, and how they’re trying to build their community through events this week.

Here’s a list of all the Earth Day-related events and programming we’ve seen from Pittsburgh companies so far. plans to update this list as needed over the next few days. Let us know what we’re missing:

RoadRunner Recycling

On the tails of a $70 million Series D at the start of this year, RoadRunner Recycling hopes to build youth focus on recycling and waste management by partnering with the North Pittsburgh Children’s House to provide recycling education this Friday. RoadRunner founder and CEO Graham Rihn will attend the “Trash to Treasure” event, as the two organizations are calling it, to share recycling information and tips with students, in addition to working on recycled art projects with materials provided by RoadRunner.

Ecotone Renewables

A startup from University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University students focused on turning food waste into carbon-negative organic liquid fertilizer, Ecotone Renewables, will launch a second system of its technology on Earth Day at Industry Public House in Robinson. So far, with its first food waste conversion system, Ecotone Renewables has worked with organizations such as 412 Food Rescue and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to process over 30,000 pounds of food waste. Attendees who check in with the startup at the event will receive a 20% discount on all food at the restaurant, and have a chance to be a signing member on the new system.


Ecotone Renewables will also celebrate its one-year anniversary on Saturday, April 23, at the location of its first system in Swissvale.

Parcel Health

Parcel Health, a sustainable healthcare startup that’s part of Innovation Works’ AlphaLab Health accelerator, announced the launch of a pilot program last week for its 100% recyclable and compostable medication packaging. The Phill Box, as it’s called, is now in active use by 10 independent pharmacies across the countries, aiming to replace the billions of orange pill bottles used and disposed of every year.

“The healthcare industry is a very carbon-intensive service sector, representing 4-5% of global emissions. With 8 billion plastic pill bottles used in the United States every year, this will be one of the easiest ways for any healthcare provider to lower their carbon footprint,” said Melinda Lee, the cofounder and CEO of Parcel Health, in a statement. “The Phill Box is made with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified sustainably sourced paper and requires 30% less carbon emissions to produce compared to plastic bottles. Every part of the Phill Box has been made and designed with care to the environment, patients, and pharmacies.”

Mimetic Hackathon

Originally scheduled for mid-February, agricultural tech initiative Mimetic — a collaboration from RustBuilt Pittsburgh and KRNLS — will host its inaugural hackathon this Friday. Though registration for teams is now closed, the event promises to bring together innovative and entrepreneurial minds focused on resolving challenges faced by the agriculture industry today, specifically highlighting solutions aimed at addressing the high prices of farming equipment today. While the date has changed for the event, the schedule and location remain the same, with the hackathon taking place at the Ignite Business Incubator in Washington, PA.


Smart trash can startup CleanRobotics shared a blog post on its website underscoring the importance of zero-waste practices ahead of Earth Day, and how the startup’s tech can help achieve those goals.

“There’s no magic bullet for the challenge of climate change,” CEO Charles Yhap said in a statement. “It will take a creative mix of innovative solutions from across disciplines to drive the impact required. The urgent need for this decentralized, but collective action is historic.”

The former Y Combinator startup hopes that the AI-powered capabilities of its trash bots, which can sort waste, provide waste data insights and more, will be one of many solutions companies will look to employ as sustainability goals become more pressing and widespread.

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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